Canada is clamping down on Islamophobia. More than a million and a half Muslims are either Canadian citizens or residents of the country, and many of them suffer from Islamophobia and its tormenting effects. But the painful effects will be mitigated because Prime Minster Justin Trudeau has allocated resources aimed at fighting the prejudices against Islam and its followers.
On January 26, 2023, the Prime Minster appointed a Muslim representative woman and tasked her with fighting Islamophobia. She is named Amira Elghawaby and is an award-winning journalist with an Egyptian heritage, and she is the country’s first Special Representative on combating Islamophobia. Appointing her is a splendid step taken in the right direction. Her appointment came a few days before January 29, designated a national day of remembrance and action against Islamophobia.
On 29 January 2017, a man wielding an automatic, loaded gun entered a mosque in Quebec City and peppered congregants praying Maqrib Salt with bullets. He killed six worshippers on the spot and maimed five others for life. Another gruesome incident shocked Canadians on 6 June 2021. A hateful individual ran over and killed four members of the same family instantly. The killer used his big truck as a weapon. They were Canadian Muslims of Pakistan origin; only a nine-year-old boy survived the carnage. However, he lost his parents, his older sister, and his grandmother. What an awful murder.
Recurring attacks carried out by hateful individuals have made much of Edmonton’s Muslim community live in fear. On December 2, 2022, a 58-year-old Somali-Canadian man went missing in the town. This was a mysterious disappearance. He disappeared after he dropped off his children at home from school, leaving his vehicle in a parking lot with his phone and keys inside the vehicle. He was found dead inside an abandoned car three days ago. This is another tragic incident which exacerbates the community’s fear. However, what motivated the murder has not been explained yet.
Islamophobia is a rising phenomenon in the West and Canada is no exception. Canada is a multicultural country, but its adopted system is not devoid of discrimination based on race and religion. Hence, Islamophobia is a mounting trend in Canada. To refresh one’s memory, Islamophobia is to be fearful of Islam and Muslims based on misinformation and sheer propaganda, sensationalized by some media outlets.
A study conducted by EKOS Research Associates, headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, confirms that hate against Muslims is on the rise. The study surveyed attitudes toward religious discrimination, Islamophobia, and Multiculturalism in Canada. EKOS Research Associates penned its final report regarding the rising hostility towards Muslims in 2018. Another research published by Bridge Initiative Team on 22 March 2019 indicates that “Most Canadians hold unfavourable views about Islam and Muslims, and most are open to policies that would single out Muslims for heightened regulation and monitoring in public spaces.”
It is no wonder that Many Canadian Muslims face suspicion and prejudices while running errands in public places. Veiled women suffer the most. Many of them receive overt aggression, whereas others encounter a covert one based on their appearances. Canada takes pride in polite society, but Islamophobia is a reality in the country.
A tedious task is awaiting Ms. Elghawaby, the recently appointed Islamophobia Representative. She has to double down on fighting the persisting prejudice against Muslims, she has to make the country a safer and more inclusive setting for them, and she ought to educate Canadians on the religion’s tenets, which call for peace and harmony. “According to a statement from Trudeau’s office, Elghawaby will provide advice to the federal government in developing inclusive policies and programs and to support the government’s efforts in increasing public education and awareness around Islamophobia.”
Contrary to opinions held by many people in the West and sensationalized by some media outlets, Islam is not a violent religion; it is a compassionate one. And its adherents are peace-loving people; therefore, Canadians of other faiths should not be fearful of their compatriots Muslims. Islam values everybody’s soul irrespective of that individual’s colour or creed. If this is the case, why do Canadians suspect their fellow Muslims? Hijab-wearing women are peaceful and they should not be afraid. Dressing like that is their identity and command they get from their Creator. Do not judge a book by its cover, so to speak.
Treating Canadian Muslims differently is to infringe on their rights and freedoms enshrined in the country’s constitution. It affirms that all Canadians should be treated equally; this is the beauty of the Canadian constitution. Yet, some Muslims are falling through the cracks and suffering at the hands of brutal individuals bent on tormenting them because of their faith and dress code. Prime Minister Trudeau has taken a noble action by appointing Amira Elghawaby whose responsibility is to come up with effective mechanisms aimed at fighting Islamophobia to make Canada a peaceful environment for all citizens.